I think Christopher Hitchens has lost his compass to a certain degree, but he makes the straightforward case against torture in Slate today with no equivocation. He also provides a useful history lesson in drawing a comparison to England’s problems with Irish terrorists in the seventies. I’m reminded of Andrew Brown’s piece on fighting terrorism from all the way back on September 19, 2001. How’s this for prescience?
This may sound like hand-waving, but it has one immediate practical consequence: Don’t use torture. Torture is the crack cocaine of anti-terrorism because, for a while, it works. The terrorists will certainly use it. But everyone tries it. The Brits did it in Northern Ireland, the Israelis use it on the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority uses it on Palestinians too. The French, in their Algerian war against terrorism in the 1950s, turned it into an instrument of policy. But the price is higher than a democracy can pay. Either the people who have to do the torture are sickened, and spread their disillusion throughout society (this is what happened in France); or they are not sickened. They come to enjoy it; and then you have lost the values that you are fighting for. Either way, after a time, it stops working. The Russians in Chechnya can torture all they like. They still can’t win the war there.